Meeting Minutes – April 2016 with Special Guest Ruth Caplan

Attending: Catherine, Basav, David,

Next meeting facilitator: Catherine

Pepco-Exelon merger

Bad news: PSC approved the merger. The legal reasoning seems to be really thin. People are looking at ways to do an appeal. They have already filed an objection with the PSC which leads to an automatic 30 day stay. If the PSC rejects the appeal for reconsideration, it can be appealed to federal court. There is a campaign to pressure the DC attorney general to be the lead party filing the appeal. Basav will send a reminder action alert to the list.

The new deal is worse than the original settlement deal, because it takes away the limited rate protection that was there and divvying it up between business, government and residential instead of just residential, at the discretion of the PSC.

Top priorities for Power DC:
-DC Fair Elections campaign
-Expansion of the renewable portfolio standards (Mary Cheh’s legislation)

Exelon owns the Conowingo Dam, the dam that holds back the Susquehana River (most polluted in the country). Exelon is resisting following MD’s water laws.

Public Banking

A presentation by special guest Ruth Caplan of the DC Public Banking Center

Background of public banking – it’s not a new idea. About 40% of banking around the world is public. Brazil, Russia, China, New Zealand have public banks. Here in the US we have one public bank which is in North Dakota. It’s called the Bank of North Dakota. Organizing for it started in 1915 by farmers. They sought non-partisan support. The farmers’ Non-Partisan League won the state legislature and governorship and passed legislation to set up the bank. Documentary about it called Northern Lights. Capitalized the bank by a sale of bonds. Republicans tried to stop it but couldn’t.


Ruth Caplan and David Schwartzman

There is a national organization called the Public Banking Institute. The DC Public Banking Center is part of the national effort. Campaigns have been started around the country including in Santa Fe, Philadelphia, Boston, Vermont and Oregon.

When the 2007/08 financial crash happened, there was not a crash in North Dakota because the state bank and local banking sector were strong and locally invested. The Bank of ND is a partnership bank. Does business and give loans in partnership with local banks. The local banks are very supportive of Bank of North Dakota because it helps them so much. During the Great Depression, when the farmers were losing their farms the Bank of ND came in and refinanced their loans and saved the farms, so they are well-loved. The Bank of ND also came in quickly after a big flood in 1997 on the Red River and helped residents and businesses in Grand Forks get back on their feet quickly.

In DC the public banking effort was started in 2011, establishing the DC Public Banking Center. The economics working group, part of Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative, made creating a DC public bank a top recommendation for the city’s sustainability initiative which was then broadly supported.

DCPBC had a big public last fall with speakers, including Gar Alperovitz, Nomi Prins and Harold Meyerson.

They need strong support in all the wards among all the constituencies in order to get a bill creating the bank through City Council.

4 pillars for public DC bank:
-Environmentally sustainable DC
-Affordable housing
-Supporting local small businesses
-Creating local jobs

Loans provide a way to leverage city deposits and by doing partnership loans with local banks, the public bank can strengthen local banks. Unfortunately, there are few local banks left in DC. so there is a question about whether to consider regional banks as local banks.

Q: Are credit unions local banks? A: Credit unions are private non-profits. People are members of them; they primarily make loans to their members; if there is a profit they give dividends to members.

Structure of the bank is important for accountability. How its board of directors is elected/selected is an important issue. Some might be appointed by a commission. Some might be directly elected by the people. We have to make sure not to set up the bank to fail. We need people who know about banking and can do the due diligence necessary to help ensure that the loans get paid back. Should also consider creating a citizens advisory committee to make sure the bank is fulfilling its mission of the four pillars serving the community.

Some people say, “How much money from the bank would go back to the municipality to lower taxes?” The DC Public Banking Center would rather not have this as an important goal because it would require higher interest rates charged for loans to ensure a profit. They’d rather provide low-interest loans to support the 4 pillars. The bank would require good business plans to reduce risk. Would be good if the bank or an affiliate could help people applying for loans develop solid business plans.

There needs to be a feasibility study that looks at the nuts and bolts of how the bank would set up and operate. How much capitalization is required? What is the capacity of local banks and credit unions to participate in partnership loans? Feasibility studies have been done in Vermont and Santa Fe NM but haven’t looked at all the issues the DC study expects to have addressed.

Q: How is this different from a credit union?
A: The public bank is a very different model. All the taxes that are paid to the city would go into the city bank. It is not a retail bank. Individual people would not make deposits in the bank, because then the public bank would be in competition with local banks and would also have higher operating expenses.

The public bank would need to be phased in as it incorporates various functions related to banking for the city.

What we can do to help:
-Sign their online petition as an individual or as an organization (other groups that have signed on: Green America, One DC, DC for Democracy) –no specific obligations if we sign on
-provide them suggestions of other groups to meet with
-get our friends and neighbors to sign the petition

People can sign the petition and get more information at:

Green Neighbors has decided to sign the petition as a group.

DC Fair Elections Campaign

We have already signed on to the DC Fair Elections Campaign as a group – matching funds for candidates who pledge not to take big/corporate donations. The candidate has to hit threshold numbers of donors and amount of donations.

The Fair Elections Campaign needs help outreaching to ANCs. The proposal is for GN to take on helping with outreach to Ward 4 ANCs. Basav is going to ANC 4D tomorrow. Lisa will go to ANC 4C. David reach out to ANC 4A. We will do this outreach in partnership with others who are going to the same ANCs.
People attending meetings need to reach out to commissioners ahead of time with materials asking them to put it on the agenda.

Pay as you Throw Update

Lisa went to DC Environmental Network’s event. The idea is to pay for garbage collection by volume. In some cities people go to grocery stores and buy special trashbags with rules on it. You pay a certain amount for the trashbag, depending on size. The city will only pick up those bags. Recycling is free. People get more careful about recycling or ideally not buying so much stuff. This hasn’t started in DC formally, but environmental groups want people to think about it. There are great examples of this throughout the world. The premier model from Worcester, MA. This generated revenue and cut down on the amount of trucks and staff needed to pick it up. There are also mechanisms to put in for low income households (X free bags per year, etc.). It’s also important to know what the DC budget is per household for picking up trash. What is also the typical household weight of trash. DC doesn’t recycle nearly as much as other cities. Concern about people dumping their trash in alleys, side of the road, etc.

DC Renewable Portfolio Standards

Mandates an escalating percentage of power generated from renewables. Mary Cheh has introduced a bill for 50% renewable by 2032 (wish list from Sustainable DC). There will be a meeting on this Thursday at 5pm. Basav is going and will send the meeting info out to the list.

DC Carbon Tax

CCAN has put this on the back burner to focus on renewable portfolio standards. We will discuss this at a future meeting.

Sustainability Day at Farmers Market

We would like to be included. Catherine will respond and let them know.

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